Edible Landscaping - April 2008 Q&A

By Charlie Nardozzi

Question: I have started a garden at our preschool in Jacksonville, Florida with great results so far. I had to place it next to a wooden fence because of space limitations so the row next to the fence does not get as much sun as the rest of the garden. Are there any vegetables that will grow with barely 4 hours of direct sun?

Answer: Yes, there are a number of vegetables that will grow well in a partly sunny location. This is especially true if you're growing in a sunny, warm climate like Florida. Cool-season greens, such as arugula, lettuce, spinach, mesclun mix, mustard, and mache, all grow in a partly sunny spot. Also, many root crops, such as radish, carrot, beet, and potato, can grow in similar conditions. Even though fruiting crops, such as cherry tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and squash, need at least 6 hours of sun to produce their best, you might want to try a few. They may not produce an abundance of fruit, but perhaps just enough to thrill your preschoolers.

Question: I have an old plum tree at my home in California and have started to notice some of the branches have black, knobby growths on them. What's causing this?

Answer: The black growth on your plum tree may be black knot fungal disease. This disease affects all types of plums, and cherry trees as well. Usually the disease starts as green, soft tissue on young twigs or fruit spurs. Then the fungal growth causes the twig tissue to enlarge. By summer the diseased tissue turns black and encircles the twig. Small twigs usually die within a year of infection. Larger branches may take longer to succumb to this disease.

To control black knot, first select disease-resistant plum varieties, such as 'President'. Japanese plums are also less susceptible to the disease compared to American plums. Avoid planting near wild plum or cherry trees and especially don't plant downwind from these susceptible trees -- the disease spores can migrate to your trees on the slightest breeze. Inspect trees each spring and prune out any knots as they form. Cut the branches at least 4 inches behind the knot and sterilize your pruners in a 10% bleach solution after each cut. Destroy the infected branches. Clean up leaves and fruit debris under the trees each fall and keep the trees healthy with annual fertilization and adequate watering.

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